The ACC–a Football Conference?
So, here we are… a few years after the Big 10 went on a
colonization imperialistic expansion spree. The expectation was that the Big 10 would leverage Ohio State/Michigan and its history to catch up to the SEC in that sport (the money sport). Here we are in 2013-2014 and it does not appear to be shaping up that way. Instead, it appears that the Big 10’s basketball has passed its football, the ACC has set up its football to pass its basketball. For this year anyway. Consider:
In 2013-2014, the ACC football conference produced 11 bowl teams:
- If you count Louisville and Notre Dame, and get rid of Maryland, the ACC’s record in football bowls was 7-5.
- Even without those swaps, the ACC won two BCS bowls and the national championship with Florida State.
- ACC detractors who suggest that the ACC is merely Florida State, Clemson, and the rest (which would be fine, given that the Big 10 was built on Ohio State/Michigan and had to add PSU and Nebraska to get to 4 football kings), have to be watching closely. The “rest” includes a king in Miami, Louisville (who won a BCS game last year), and Virginia Tech. Nobody doubts the potential of Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and North Carolina State. And then you have the history of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Boston College flanking the north with a long history of producing NFL talent and Heisman Trophy winners. Only Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest are true football weak spots historically, and Duke just completed a 10-win season. Wake Forest has BCS bowl experience. And, of all the ACC teams it covets, the Big 10 wants Virginia the most! This is not to say that the ACC can rely on one good season, or that the ACC has caught the Big 10 or the Big XII (much less the SEC). But credit Swofford and the ACC Presidents for having the year that could start to get the momentum going towards the ACC becoming a yearly threat to be the #2 football conference.
- Notre Dame is at least part of the ACC football conference landscape.
This is not to say that one year means that the ACC has “caught” any other conference. This is not to say that the ACC is generating more money in football (or otherwise) than the other conferences. This is merely to say that the ACC has proven that it can have a very good football year. A national championship. Two BCS bowl wins. And conference depth. One year in a good direction is better than none. Florida State fans no longer have to worry about whether they can win it all from the ACC. Even with all the financial advantages the SEC and Big 10 schools have, the right coach and right QB can get it done.
Meanwhile, although the conference additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse were expected to boost hoops (which they have), the rest of the ACC basketball has declined. Miami’s basketball team was a #2 seed and an Elite Eight team last year, which is a lot better from a regular season or post-season success standpoint than its football team the past decade. Syracuse is #2 in the country and undefeated. Pittsburgh has but one loss, but is outside the top 25. But the rest of the ACC has been very underwhelming. As of today, Duke is #16 and a mere 1-2 in conference play after a loss to Clemson (ugh!). North Carolina is 0-3 in conference play. Virginia, Clemson, and Maryland are 3 through 5 in the conference standings–who saw that happening?
Is the ACC that much better in hoops right now than the American with Louisville, Cincinnati, and Memphis at top 25 levels or close to it? Is the ACC that much better than the Big East, which has Villanova, Creighton, and Xavier? The Big 10 has three teams in the top 5. The Big XII has Iowa State and Baylor in the top 10, with Oklahoma State and Kansas nearby. At the very least, we can agree that the ACC taking a step backwards in basketball was unexpected, right?
As of today, the ACC looks an awful lot like a football conference, rather than a basketball conference. With 75% of a conference’s value dictated by football, maybe it is a good thing if this becomes a trend. What do you think?